Mixing state, composition, and sources of fine aerosol particles in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau and the influence of agricultural biomass burning
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions
Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) was employed to obtain morphology, size, composition, and mixing state of background fine particles with diameter less than 1 μm in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP) during 15 September to 15 October 2013. Individual aerosol particles mainly contained secondary inorganic aerosols (SIA-sulfate and nitrate) and organics during clean periods (PM<sub>2.5</sub>: particles less than 2.5 μg m<sup>−3</sup>). The presence of KCl-NaCl associated with
... associated with organics and an increase of soot particles suggest that an intense biomass burning event caused the highest PM<sub>2.5</sub> concentrations (> 30 μg m<sup>−3</sup>) during the study. A large number fraction of the fly ash-containing particles (21.73 %) suggests that coal combustion emissions in the QTP significantly contributed to air pollutants at the median pollution level (PM<sub>2.5</sub>: 10–30 μg m<sup>−3</sup>). We concluded that emissions from biomass burning and from coal combustion both constantly contribute to anthropogenic particles in the QTP atmosphere. Based on size distributions of individual particles in different pollution levels, we found that gas condensation on existing particles is an important chemical process for the formation of SIA with organic coating. TEM observations show that refractory aerosols (e.g., soot, fly ash, and visible organic particles) likely adhere to the surface of SIA particles larger than 200 nm due to coagulation. Organic coating and soot on surface of the aged particles likely influence their hygroscopic and optical properties in the QTP, respectively. To our knowledge, this study reports the first microscopic analysis of fine particles in the background QTP air.